More Deadly Sins of Site Design

Last time, we began looking at “The Seven Deadly Sins of Site Design,” and how sloth, gluttony, pride, and lust relate to interactive marketing and site design. I received a lot of great e-mail about the column, so we’ll continue the discussion by looking at the effects of wrath, envy, and greed on site design as we prepare for the panel I’ll be moderating on this topic at Online Market World.


Is your site mean? Does it alienate your customers? Take a look at your error messages and the other signage around your site.

Most sites blame customers at every step and yell at them if they do something wrong. For example, when users create a username or password that doesn’t have the minimum number of characters or the right mix of characters and numbers, does your site yell at them? Does it say, “ERROR: Password MUST have a mix of BOTH letters and numbers and MUST be a minimum of 6 characters long.” Do you blame users: “YOU HAVE ENTERED AN INCORRECT DATE”?

If so, you’re inflicting wrath on your customers. Be nicer. Help users. Don’t blame users for not following directions; provide constructive advice and reasons behind the rules.

For example, replace the “bad password” message above with, “For increased security, we ask that passwords contain both letters and numbers and contain at least 6 characters. You entered ‘saturn.’ What about ‘saturn36’ or ‘253saturn’ instead?”

Here’s a better version of the “incorrect date” message: “Please make sure to use the format mm/dd/yyyy for your date. Or, why don’t you use our calendar feature and choose a date directly?”


Two panelists agree on what envy means to site design. Olivier Chaine and Seth Rosenblatt think about envy in terms of your competition. You’ve been through this before: your competitor launches a new site. It’s very pretty, has a lot of sexy new features, and makes your site feel old (to you). You’re a victim of envy.

But your bottom line is based on the usability and conversion rates associated with your Web site. Look at Craigslist. It’s probably one of the least enviable sites in terms of visual design. But it’s effective and has high conversions.

Don’t envy sites for the wrong reasons. If they’re more successful than your site, then you can envy them!


Greed comes in many forms online. All our panelists agree that one form is asking for too much information. If you insist on asking your users for their details, ask just what is necessary to provide the service they need. For instance, Topica asks me for my gender, date of birth, country, and ZIP code just to send me a newsletter. Unless Topica is planning to send me a birthday present (suited for men), it has no business asking me for that information.

Your marketing people are greedy. They want to know everything about your users the minute you interact with them. But sometimes asking the minimal amount of information then providing a terrific personalized experience based on that information is enough to wow your audience. Then, slowly ask for more information. If users sees the benefit, they’ll give it to you.

Other Sins

The seven deadly sins certainly aren’t the only sins Web sites commit. What’s on your list of deadly sins when it comes to interactive marketing or site design? Let me know, and I’ll collect the best of them for a future column.

Until next time…


Join us for ClickZ Presents: Online Marketing Summit, September 25 at the Sheraton San Diego.

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